By now most people have seen the eye-catching footage of the mid-air collision that occurred on Saturday, November 2, 2013. The video clips, captured by skydivers’ helmet cameras in the two airplanes, show the two single engine aircraft flying in formation with skydivers poised at the open door, ready to jump. But just before that happens, the trailing plane flies forward and down, colliding into the other plane and breaking that plane into three pieces and initially catching at least two skydivers in between the two planes.
While the footage and the speculation about the event itself are rampant in circles that include pilots, skydivers, and armchair sport enthusiasts, there’s a value to shifting focus and acknowledging the value of training.
I’ve been flying small airplanes for 10 years and every time I fly I spend some time thinking about where I might be able to make an emergency landing safely if I needed to. I’ve also been skydiving for 10 years and every time I skydive I’m thinking about what my response should be in various emergencies. Those jumpers and pilots survived not so much because of luck, but more because as a skydiver and pilot I can say that we do train for this. Student skydivers are taught in their very first jump course what the procedures are for a skydive aircraft in distress including how to exit safely and give the aircraft in distress the right-of-way.
Military personnel, oil rig workers, police, and so many other people working every day in high risk environments all have years of very specific training to keep them and others safe when the worse happens. Surprisingly, the vast majority of the time, they’re able to do their jobs and use their training and quick thinking to respond to danger. When asked post emergency, most of these kinds of people defer the attention by reminding us that they just responded to the event as best they could but what it always goes back to is the training. It’s the same reason why many of those careers require re-currency training, so those procedures stay very fresh.
That’s what it takes to survive when the worst happens. We all do safety training at some point in our lives, even if it’s just evacuating from our elementary school as a kid. There is no arguing that there are ways we can benefit in our daily lives from even just talking about these kinds of situations. Could we have a scheduled fire drill at our workplace? Could we make sure we have some emergency equipment in our car ready for winter weather? Could we even make sure we have emergency contacts ready on the fridge? We can do little things to make our lives safer and be better prepared for the unexpected.
-Ellen Parker, JETPUBS Inc.